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Published on June 15th, 2008 | by simeon

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Blackhawk Down

When I used to teach History, I used to be asked by my students why it was important to know history since it was nothing but events in the past. When asked this question, I would mention that if one remains ignorant of what had happened before, one might be doomed to repeat it. I used the recent conflict in Bosnia that was spurred on by the Horrors of World War II, and the need to make sure that people are protected from ethnic violence as an example.
While many students saw the wisdom in this answer, it is a shame that history has a sad way of repeating itself. Take the case of the current conflict in Afghanistan, as our forces are engaged in a battle to capture and topple an individual who has caused suffering and death amongst millions of people, it is all to familiar to those of us who were in the Armed forces in the early 90’s. Just as the conflict with Iraq was winding down, reports of widespread deaths and abuses in the nation of Somalia were reported. The local warlords had started an all out battle for power, and 300,000 people had been killed and scores more were starving and suffering. The world poured in relief supplies only to learn that the items were being confiscated upon arrival by the top Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his followers.
Unwilling to stand aside and let this continue, The United States sent in troops to assist the UN troops in restoring order and bringing Aidiad and his men to justice.
In the film “Blackhawk Down”, director Ridley Scott has combined with action producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring the true story of the battle of Mogadishu that took place on October 3rd 1993. The film is based on the book by Mark Bowden and tells the story of the elite soldiers that were sent on a mission to capture top officials of Aidiad as they met for a meeting. What started as a textbook mission soon became a nightmare when two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down, and the soldiers found themselves separated and cut off as they attempted to rescue crash survivors and accomplish their mission. Filmed on location in Moracco, the film centers on a group of men many facing combat for the first time. Josh Hartnett Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann, (Josh Hartnett), is the young soldier taking command of combat troops for the first time, Grimes (Ewan McGregor) is a soldier who has spent his time behind a desk and now gets to taste combat, Gen. William Garrison (Sam Shepard), is a leader who cares for his men but is pressured by the military brass to bring and end to the conflict, Lt. Colonel McKnight (Tom Sizemore), is a officer who gets things done and makes sure his men are taken care of. There are a number of other characters and while lesser, they are every bit as important to the mission as the men commanding them.
The film is a fascinating look into an event that got little coverage in the media at the time. The aftermath of the mission left 18 Soldiers dead, 73 wounded and hundreds of Somalians dead as the planned one-hour mission became a fifteen-hour standoff. Several city blocks of controlled population descended upon the men and the crash sites with the goal of killing or capturing the soldiers and getting the technology in the Blackhawks. By following the strict leave no soldier behind policy, the troops constantly re-entered dangerous areas, even when safely clear of the fighting in order to retrieve their comrades. While heroic, this caused even more casualties as wounded men continued to fight and worsen their injuries.
Blackhawk shows the true horror of combat, as the action is intense and graphic. It also avoids many of the soldier clichés of most war films. Aside from a new recruit that viewers are sure is about to get in over his head, the men are a diverse and unique bunch. The men are regular people who are doing a job they were asked to do. The biggest problem with the film is that it is long, and Scott’s pacing at times makes the film plod and drag out. Another issue I had with the film is that due to the short hair, the blood, and the dirt, on the cast, it was very difficult to tell many of the actors apart and this hindered forming an attachment to various soldiers as many of them became faceless grunts.
That being said, the film was enjoyable and very informative. With a bit of editing this movie could have been a fast paced action film with substance and story. As it stands now, it is a long, slow, and at times interesting look into a tragic event that paved the way for the removal of American troops from the region.

3.5 Stars out of 5


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